Anthony Rotoli is the CEO of Terra Dottaa leader in global education engagement solutions.
As National College Decision Day fell on May 1, high school students begin researching their best colleges and universities months and even years earlier, considering several factors in their searches, such as cost, location, academic programs, and campus life. But a prominent factor that I think institutional corporate officials should be more aware of is study abroad programs.
Students know the value of participating in a study abroad program academically, culturally, and professionally, so when it comes time to decide where to go to college, many look to schools that offer and support these programs. According to a recent survey by my company of US college students, almost 90% (download required) said an institution’s study program abroad and the schools’ support for such programs were a deciding factor in their selection decision.
Institutions are not only looking at ways to make globalization more accessible, they are also putting it into practice. So, what else can institutions do to improve their study abroad programs and on-campus globalization to attract these students?
Drive proactive marketing communications for global programs.
The higher ecosystem now operates in a digital reality, and with it comes the expectation that information is available at the touch of a button. Study agencies abroad need to ensure that their marketing communication strategies are clear, reaching students early in their academic careers, and being on the digital channels they use every day. Half of the students surveyed by my company said they collected most of the information about a school’s study abroad programs from the institution’s website, making it the best medium to reach these students.
As the study landscape abroad changes and college students place more emphasis on global experience, connecting with freshmen interested in studying abroad is critical. Only 22% of students surveyed said they learned about studying abroad in their first year of college, meaning schools are missing out on opportunities to engage students early and increase participation in studying abroad. And while some students wait until their junior or senior year to study abroad, making the connection during their freshman year and even in pre-college programs ensures they have a successful and enjoyable global engagement experience.
To reach students through early intervention, institutions can use local partnerships to support students through scholarships and connect them with local city leaders and businesses. In addition, attending high school career fairs and pre-college programs is a great way to boost interest and enrollment early before students complete their college section.
Integrate technology to improve duty of care protocols.
More than half (58%) of the surveyed students said that while they are aware of the potential health risks of international travel during the pandemic, they will proceed cautiously with study activities abroad. In response, institutions must reassure new students and their parents that systems are in place to prioritize the safe return of students home, even in an emergency. The best way to do this is by leveraging technology that helps schools improve and maintain their duty of care.
Many schools across the country use rapid response systems to efficiently track students studying abroad and notify them immediately if there is an emergency or they need to go home. This was especially important when Covid-19 hit, as schools had the tools to know exactly where students were and the ability to relay critical information to keep them informed.
An example I know of (after working with them as a client) is The University of Evansville, which in March 2020, with a looming travel ban, made the unprecedented decision to send all their foreign students home† With the proper duty of care tools already in place, they were able to navigate safely and quickly. As international travel tightened and borders began to close, the array of technologies helped the school respond and track to get students home safely within days.
Provide alternatives to study abroad to increase accessibility.
Virtual study abroad and home study out programs are not new, but have grown in popularity during the pandemic. More than half (60%) of the students expressed their interest in studying away as an alternative to a study program abroad. This can be a way to gain cross-cultural exposure and global engagement without the expense of traveling to another country. In addition, virtual programs provide students with globalization experiences through cross-cultural project-based learning with peers in other countries.
As the pandemic has exacerbated some of the financial and logistical barriers students and their families face when seeking to participate in a study abroad program, virtual and tucked-away options may be more accessible. In reality, 47% of students surveyed said they would like help from their institution to identify more opportunities for financial aid, while 23% would like help in tailoring study abroad opportunities to their field.
Institutions can build greater inclusiveness into global opportunities by investing in efforts that are intentional, collaborative, strategic and inclusive. One way to do this is to offer virtual study abroad and study away as other ways to increase accessibility to global education. Virtual programs offer lower costs and greater flexibility to extend the reach of global education and enable new forms of learning.
Providing tools for a globalized society
The pandemic has prompted many campuses to rethink their global engagement goals while still providing students with a multicultural experience through innovative solutions and skilled planning. By providing students with the tools necessary to experience life through the eyes of other cultures, institutions can help create a more globalized society.
At the end of the day, the main motivation behind a student’s choice of college is which institution will help them achieve their dreams and become successful members of society. Higher education must be ready to always innovate and improve in order to provide its students with the experiences necessary to foster a more globalized and interconnected world.